The news today is full of reactions to a piece in a news magazine about the Bible being a misunderstood book. This is not news to any of us who have to listen to the ravings of certain segments of the local Christian groups about how we have to follow the Bible, etc. I was pressed to respond when someone talked about how people who didn’t understand the Bible are the only ones who could have written such a piece. I decided to write a brief (ok, the book is pretty long!) piece summarizing the story. So, read on, my friends.
Let’s see. The basic premise of the Bible is that God created everything including humans and He gave humans “free will”, but it was a set up because when they used it, He slammed not only the individuals who did so but the entire species. Wow! Then He set about setting up a salvation scheme that lead to multiple acts of genocide and absolutely grotesque murder of those not even capable of making any kind of decision as well as setting up innumerable women for a life of rape and slavery. OK. Well, now we know what this Bible God’s personality is like. Now comes the blow off: He gets an unmarried teenager pregnant with Himself, grows up as a working class guy in a small country with a lot of anger issues that is ruled by an evil empire, goes on into a life (short) as an itinerant street preacher proclaiming the end of the world, gets into trouble with that same evil empire and is executed rather gruesomely by them as a troublemaker. Now comes the good part, while being executed (they took their time with such things back then) multiple strange things happened that are only recorded in the Bible inspite of their wide ranging effects, God make several pronouncements as he “dies”, of which there are four different accounts, and He gets taken off and buried. After the Sabbath (can’t do anything on that day, Saturday by our calendar) His followers and possibly family members (which ones no one can agree on, check the stories) show up to finish the preparations for proper burial and the body is missing. Someone (again, no one can agree on just who that is) tells whoever it is that arrived that God is gone, came back to life. Now the fun begins. Multiple stories are told about people seeing God back on the streets or roads but they don’t realize it’s Him until after whoever it was they saw is gone again (how many people have seen Elvis in the last 35 years or so?). Obviously His followers couldn’t tell one middle aged guy with beard from another. Oh, true, some of them do claim that they see him and recognize him right off. Finally, after a couple of weeks of this He decides to go back to Heaven after giving one last sermon. The purpose of all this drama? It’s the old human sacrifice to appease the angry God story with a really detailed and bloody description of said sacrifice thrown in to generate lots of guilt as well as gilt for the left behind followers. One of the best predictions made by God while in human guise was the line to some of his detractors that many of them would still be around when the world ended! That was almost 2000 years ago. Still no end in sight. Oh well. In the mean time, His followers left His original “God’s People” nation and joined forces with the evil empire to facilitate their spread throughout the known world. Whatta plot! All of this because supposedly God loves His humans so much that even when they do exactly what He designed them to do, He forgives them, but only with a stack of caveats which, as His modern day followers will tell you, you have to get just right or it’s an eternal lake of fire for you no matter how well you follow His rules, or at least which ever ones you can figure out from reading the book.
Now, what was it I didn’t understand after multiple cover to cover readings of several different translations?
I find the problem of the Bible an interesting one. No where in that Book does Jesus tell his followers that someday some people would write a book about all of His stuff and once they do, then those same followers could form an organization carefully based on said book. Actually, what did happen was that the largest group of His followers developed their own ways of doing things and managed to get significant influence over one of the Roman Emperors. Once they did that, they became a legal entity and under the auspices of that Emperor, brought together the various writings about Jesus that were in circulation, carefully picked and chose among them for the ones that pleased said Emperor, declared them the real thing and then went about destroying all the other writings that didn’t follow the same party line. They did a good job of it too! In all this time only a few scraps of the other versions have appeared until the 1940’s and the Nag Hammadi scrolls were found. So now, fast forward to the last few hundred years when some other groups got jealous of the wealth and power that the original Emperor’s approved group had, decided that they could grab some of that for themselves, and looked around for some tool to use to make themselves stand out. Low and behold, there’s the Emperor’s official Book! Now all these groups claim that they are better than the original group because they are based on the Book (edited again) that the original group wrote. Once you wrap your head around that, and you have stopped laughing, it’s time to cry every time you see someone who has gotten totally sucked into the whole scheme.
Mind you, this has nothing to do with the existence of an Ultimate Source of All (commonly known as God), only with the long story of a business scheme designed to fleece the flocks and line the pockets of those smart enough to keep the scheme going.
I suppose I wouldn’t be so annoyed by the whole thing if these vocal advocates of their version of the Bible didn’t try to get some of their quirks made into laws that the rest of us have to follow. Or try to get their idols set up on public lands for the rest of us to be “impressed” by.
Who knows, perhaps 500 years from now, some of the books that fill the Alternate Religion sections of bookstores and libraries will have been carved into granite and made holy. Goddess forfend!